Playoff birth on line Saturday for football team

TOUCH DOWN (Stephanie Plese)

Sarah Black

 Fresh off a victory over Palomar College, high-flying Saddleback College can earn a playoff berth with a victory Saturday against Fullerton College.

Game time is 1 p.m. at Cal State Fullerton.

Last Saturday, the Gauchos ran up nearly 600 total yards in their 53-38 National Division Southern Conference victory over the visiting Comets (4-5, 1-3).

Saddleback is 7-2, 3-1.

Wide receiver Julian Williams caught eight passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns and quarterback Sean Reilly completed 31 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns.

Fullerton (6-3, 3-1) , also fighting for a playoff spot,lost to Mt. San Antonio College last weekend.

Saddleback also has a loss to the Mounties and Gaucho coach Mark McElroy said after the Palomar win that he believes the winner Saturday will rematch with Mt. SAC.

Fullerton “is a tough opponent,” said safety Matt Reza. “We gotta saddle up for next week,” he said

In the game Saturday, Plomar took the lead in the first quarter, having more than nine minutes of possession and scoring a touchdown in the first 5 minutes. Gauchos called out from the sidelines in support of their defensive line, chanting “Defense!”

Unrest came about when Saddleback’s punter Zach Spiering was knocked down by Palomar, and Gauchos fans raised a cry of “roughing the kicker.”

The call wasn’t made, and the Comet’s fullback Jason Klingerman was later injured.

“We’ve got these guys pinned now,” said defensive end Kyle Long to his team near the end of the first quarter.

Saddleback scored a 22-yard field goal resulting in a 3-7 score at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter Saddleback scored a 35-yard field goal, while Palomar continued the lead by getting a touchdown and making the kick for an extra point.

In the last minute of the second quarter Saddleback crouched at the 32-yard line and quarterback Sean Reilly maked a complete pass to running back Chris Pierce at the 11- yard line.

The Gauchos took their second time out, and with 43 seconds left in the first half. Wide receiver Julian Williams made a catch and ran the ball into the end zone. This play put Saddleback in the lead with the score at 19-14 at the end of the first half.

Saddleback started strong in the third quarter, missing a close touchdown but succeeding in scoring a 20-yard field goal within the first two minutes of the quarter. Then team then scored a second 39-yard field goal.

Less than a minute later, the Comets stepped it up when their wide receiver Nigel Westbrooks made a 52-yard touchdown, bringing the score to 25-21.

“[Palomar is] fighting to stay in the playoffs,” said safety “G.S.” Gary Stevenson. “We’re fighting to keep our composure.”

Saddleback came back quickly though, and Williams made the second touchdown of the evening only 20 seconds later, running 69 yards into Palomar’s end zone.

Solidifying their lead, Saddleback’s running back Donnell Dickerson made a run into the end zone. After a good kick by Michael Frisina, Saddleback led 39-21 at the end of the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Palomar made small headway by scoring a 22-yard field goal, but running back Donnell Dickerson ran off with hopes of a comeback by making a touchdown with about six minutes left in the game.

With the score at 46-24, Palomar made another attempt to catch up by scoring a 35-yard run into the end zone, resulting in a touchdown and a good kick, the score now 46-31.

Twelve seconds later, the Gaucho’s running back Michael Campana responded by scoring a 34-yard running touchdown. Saddleback led 53-31.

Palomar’s final sendoff occurred with about four minutes left in the game when the Comet’s quarterback Nate Ong throwing a complete pass to Geoff Akpom who ran it into the end zone for their final touchdown.

Saddleback won the game with a final score of 53-38.

“I’m feeling great,” said wide receiver Williams, as he celebrated with his family after the game on the field.

Williams, who is headed for the pros, said Saddleback will continue to work hard and practice for future games. “We have to stay focused,” he said.

While Saddleback did give up some plays at the end of the game by allowing Palomar to score, Gaucho’s Temini Brewster said the team played well.”

“After coming off a loss we needed a win,” said Reza, “and we got one.”

Next week determines whether the Gauchos are headed for the playoffs when they play The Fullerton College on the Hornets home turf. After missing the playoffs by only one game last season, winning this next game means a lot for the Saddleback team.

The Gauchos celebrate another touchdown. (Stephanie Plese)

TOUCH DOWN (Stephanie Plese)

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